BP’s Top 100 Challenge #33: There Will Be Blood, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list provided such a challenge.
There Will Be Blood is not a movie I expected to like but was delightfully surprised when I saw it the first time. This was only my second viewing of the film and I was happy to see it again. Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as Daniel Plainview is a big reason why the film works for me but there is more to the film to appreciate than just a committed performance. While not every film Paul Thomas Anderson has directed has worked for me, this one certainly did.
Day-Lewis’ performance is certainly the showiest in the film but there are some other great roles. Paul Dano as Eli and Paul Sunday is the second showiest in the film. Dano is one of those actors that the more of his work that I see the more interested I am in him as an actor. He makes fascinating choices with the roles he takes and then the choices he makes in his performances are always interesting to watch. But I also really liked young Dillon Freasier as HW. He has to make a pretty big change in his character choices once HW goes deaf and it is absolutely believable in the film. Ciaran Hines as Fletcher and Kevin J O’Connor as Henry both have small parts but bring a necessary humanity to the screen that beautifully counters the coldness of Daniel and his actions towards those around him.
The chess match between Eli and Daniel is one of the most interesting parts of the story. While the majority of the time Daniel has the upper hand but the moments when Eli has it are potent. The scene when Daniel forces Eli to admit that he is a false profit is a great scene and a great performance from both of those actors. It is also a nice mirror image of the scene when Eli baptizes Daniel. But I was more interested in the subtler scenes like when Daniel steals Eli’s words and won’t let him bless the derrick or when they are negotiating for the Sunday land. Those scenes have so much happening below the surface and you can feel the tension brewing just like the oil underneath the Sunday farm.
The coldness that Daniel shows throughout the film is sad and almost impressive in its commitment. The scene when he sends HW away and he gets off the train, leaving Fletcher to take him to his new home, is impressively cruel. As is his ninety degree turn on Henry when he realizes that he has been lying to Daniel the whole time. Henry goes from Daniels closest ally to barely worth a bullet in a matter of a few hours. But I think the hardest scene in the film to watch is when adult HW comes to Daniel to tell him that he is starting his own company in Mexico and Daniel tells him he is nothing but competition and a bastard. You can see on HW’s face that he knew the conversation wasn’t going to go well but he didn’t expect Daniel to be that cruel. He has no choice but to walk away from his raving father and it was painful to watch.
There Will Be Blood isn’t a fun movie to watch but it is beautifully made and the storytelling is great. Day-Lewis’ fully committed and memorable performance as Daniel Plainview the selfish and successful oil man elevates the film. But it is one of those films were everything just works to make a great film. The Johnny Greenwood soundtrack adds a lot. It is a strange soundtrack to listen to on its own but it adds tension and depth to the scenes. 2007 was a great year for movies and There Will Be Blood was a big part of that line-up.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
There Will Be Blood ranking: Carrier